George Osborne's autumn statement - the Welsh angles

 

Can I interest you in a Barnett consequential? Budget days wouldn't be the same without one.

Ok, so this was technically an autumn statement but with so many different announcements dribbling out of the Treasury it felt like a mini-Budget.

The Barnett consequentials are the share the Welsh government receives of increases in comparable spending in England.

The UK Government says this adds up to £216m between now and spring 2015. It sounds like a lot of money although it is rather less than the money previously sliced off the Welsh government's budget in what the Secretary of State for Wales, Cheryl Gillan, describes as a "generous settlement".

Other Welsh angles include the use of an urban broadband fund to create 10 "super-connected" cities, including Cardiff.

The Chancellor told MPs that the UK government is working with the Welsh and Scottish governments "to improve links between our nations such as the M4 in south Wales and the overnight rail services to the north of the border".

Further investigation suggests this involves little more than a commitment to look at the issue of congestion in the Newport area.

He also floated the possibility of a deal on tolls on the privately-owned Severn Bridges, tolls which are currently set by legisation introduced by the last Conservative government.

The UK government was, he said, "holding open the opportunity of a discussion on that".

Mr Osborne was replying to Plaid Cymru's parliamentary leader, Elfyn Llwyd, who wins my prize for cheekiest press release of the day in welcoming the national infrastructure plan.

I quote: "The scheme, which is based around Plaid Cymru's Build for Wales programme ......"

There is, as you might expect, a "but". Plaid say the £216m extra spending announced for Wales leaves the country short-changed as only a small element of the total £30bn available across the UK will definitely be spent in Wales.

But in dogged pursuit of a Welsh angle, it's often easy to focus on the institutional impact at the expense of those issues that are UK-wide but disproportionately affect Wales.

Hundreds of thousands of public service workers, most of whom have had their pay frozen in recent years, will discover that from 2013 for two years annual rises are limited to one per cent. Unless inflation plummets, that's another pay cut and reduction in living standards.

 
David Cornock Article written by David Cornock David Cornock Parliamentary correspondent, Wales

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